Post-Election Thoughts and Ideas

(Or Where Do We Go From Here, Now That We’re Down the Rabbit Hole?)

My husband had a stanza of a poem that he was wont to recite whenever political events seemed most dark to him.  It’s from The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot.  This oft-quoted passage goes:

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

I used to tease him and call the time when he would launch into this rather depressing recitation his “Eeyore mood”.  We would joke about how he’d next be reciting from Ecclesiastes, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”  I can only imagine how often this poem and this discussion would have made its conversational appearance these past several months!

Seriously, however, I’ve thought about this sentiment a lot this past week in the post-election hangover that so many in this country are experiencing.  It was an ugly election.  Most people I know truly disliked both candidates and voted the way they did in order to protect the Supreme Court, for whichever side they were on. There were a few exceptions to that rule, but by and large that was what my unofficial political pulse-checking of friends and family showed.  Let’s face it, there was undeniable corruption on both sides.  Neither candidate appeared free of appalling moral lapses.  And then there was the ugliness.  The ugliness, not just between the candidates, but the ugliness that found loud-mouthed cheerleaders on both sides pitting the regular voters against each other.  I, along with many others, truly hated the angry and bombastic charges that suggested that if you supported one candidate over the other you were amongst the worst people in the world.  The hyperbole was astounding.

Luckily for me I had an option that I was comfortable voting for and supporting in the form of Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn.  I can honestly say that I admire them in many ways and I was grateful for a safe haven for my vote.  While I expected Hillary Clinton to actually win, I did pray and hope for a miracle here in Utah which would throw the election to the House of Representatives and ultimately to a President McMullin.

But that didn’t happen.  And here we are in a post-election situation that was as unanticipated as it is unchartered.  We have a president-elect who has never held an elected office and never learned the art and skill of governing.  While narcissism seems an inherent part of many politicians’ DNA, the undisciplined narcissism and vindictiveness of this particular president-elect seems unusually high.  His platform and views were, to put it mildly, inconsistent; not only from campaign event to campaign event, but they also swerved wildly from positions he loudly proclaimed throughout his public career.  It seemed fascinating to watch how his advisors and media advocates always managed to make his inconsistencies somehow still seem consistent.  (Side note: it reminded me a bit of the Menendez Brothers murder trial in Los Angeles.  When a juror named Twinkles was interviewed by the media after she voted for acquittal, she stated that she didn’t believe that the brothers actually purposefully killed their parents, despite their confessions, because they were both too cute and she knew that they just didn’t remember the night of the killings correctly.)

Anyway, I digress.  Here we are in a very unusual place with an unusual president-elect having to work behind the scenes instead of just coming out on stage to spout popular ideas to the all ego-feeding adoring fans.  This is reality without the blasting music and wild flag waving.  As Kipling so aptly said, “The tumult and the shouting dies/The Captains and the Kings depart”.  We are at that moment.  The hoopla and the fanfare of the election are past.  The bombastic rhetoric by candidates and pundits alike are sealed in the archives of history.  Now, today and everyday going forward, we have no option but to look to the future and try our best to mold it to the best possible outcome. So what does this staunch #nevertrumper in this new world of President Trump do? What is a #nevertrumper to think or feel?  I can only speak for myself and share my thoughts on how I intend to maneuver this political landscape.

To begin with, I am a firm believer in second chances.  There is no chance for success if immediately all hope is thrown out the window by critics and tepid supporters alike.  I can say that with Donald Trump I am warily hoping for a Chester Arthur transformation.

Who is Chester Arthur?  Surely everyone is familiar with the story of our 21st President!  Okay, maybe not, but the stories I learned about him as a youth have resonated with me throughout my life.

What I remember of President Arthur’s story was that he was prominent in the Republican political machine of the post-Civil War era.  He was rather famous for his corruption and graft.  In fact, he was so famous for his cronyism and corruption that a fellow Republican, President Rutherford Hayes, fired Arthur from his post as Collector of the Port of New York as Hayes sought to clean up the political corruption and bring about much needed reforms.  A couple years after he lost his post, in 1880, Arthur was nominated for Vice President on the Republican ticket with James Garfield.  They won!  But six months after taking office Garfield was assassinated and Chester Arthur was thrust into office.  The fear of full-scale corruption emanating from the White House was strong, while on the other hand the hope for a return to the good ol’ days of political cronyism and patronage was equally strong by those looking to line their pockets at the nation’s expense.  But something odd happened on the journey from Vice President to President; Chester Arthur eschewed his career-long involvement in the political machinations of the party machine and became a toe-the-line reformer and above-board scandal-free president.  Contemporary publisher and journalist Alexander McClure wrote, “”No man ever entered the presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired . . . more generally respected.”  Mark Twain said, “It would be hard indeed to better President Arthur’s administration.”  This life-long man immersed in questionable dealings truly reformed and transformed himself.

So now, 136 years later, I am hoping for a Chester Arthur moment with President Trump.  I am hoping and praying for such a transformation.  The question must be asked, however, whether I truly expect it.  I don’t know, but I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt until I am either fully convinced of a lasting positive change or can no longer hope for requisite transformation.  But as of this moment, I can truly say that I have been both impressed and dismayed by the actions of President-Elect Trump.

The impressed began with Trump’s victory speech.  He seemed humble and sincere.  It sounded as though he truly wished to unite the country.  I appreciated that.  I also appreciated his choice to serve essentially without pay.  Volunteer service is laudatory.  Some of his pomposity has been laid aside for the moment.

Unfortunately, the choice of Steve Bannon as the administration’s chief strategist is worrisome at best.  Bannon, a proponent and advocate for the “alt-right” has been instrumental in stirring up much of the angry and hateful rhetoric bandied about this election – and even before.  I cannot view his appointment with anything but dismay.  In addition, I’m not personally enthralled with the choice of Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff, despite the approbation of many other conservatives.  Priebus, back in September, threatened to purge the Republican Party of those who didn’t fully align themselves with then-nominee Donald Trump.  His long history in politics has many other opportunities when he showed himself far more inclusive and honorable, but this threat, toothless as it may have been, is too reminiscent of tyranny and dictatorships for my comfort.  How about Rudy Guiliani as Secretary of State?  Totally horrific, in my book.  Guiliani’s willingness to defend the indefensible immorality of his chosen candidate and then to be an outspoken defender of that candidate, no matter how serious the scandal, cost Guiliani my respect.  I never respected his personal life, but I had always respected him as a leader.  That he was so willing to engage in wild mental contortions in order to defend Trump showed him to be less of a resolved leader and more of a pathetic sycophant.  I can only hope that the President-Elect shows wisdom enough to put experience ahead of blind lackey and go with a John Bolton or someone equally qualified.

In other personnel moves, the idea of putting Laura Ingraham as White House spokesperson is horrifying to me as she has been a vocal participant in the politics of division, anger and hatred.  On another personnel front, the seeking top security clearances for the Trump children is worrisome and shows the very cronyism that needs to be avoided.  And the now chaos in the ranks of the transition team as experienced and able voices are being replaced by Trump loyalists – often without the requisite skills or experience – showcasess the Trump we have known throughout the campaign.

Elliot Cohen, a national defense and foreign policy expert who has been a Trump critic but then called on all sides to unite and work with the president-elect, wrote on Twitter today: “After exchange w Trump transition team, changed my recommendation: stay away. They’re angry, arrogant, screaming ‘you LOST!’ Will be ugly.”  This, along with that chaos in the transition team, doesn’t bode well for a competent administration.

However, I was pleasantly surprised that President-Elect Trump did nothing to derail Paul Ryan’s re-election as Speaker of the House, despite his attempts during the general election to bring Ryan down.  To me this gave me hope.

President-Elect Trump’s backing away from mass deportation was, in my mind, a very positive step.  I also applaud his plan to back out of the Iran deal. However, his seeming to embrace Putin and play footsie with the Russians is worrisome.  Putin is not, and never will be, our friend and ally.  President Obama did great harm to the U.S. and our allies by underestimating this very formidable and unscrupulous opponent.  President-Elect Trump seems to be going even further down that very unsuccessful path.  And to underscore that point, just a day after Trump and Putin spoke on the phone Russia unleashed serious airstrikes in Syria, completely against our interests.  Not a very auspicious beginning.

On domestic policy it seems that we will all wait with bated breath.  Will Obamacare be dismantled?  With a majority in both houses of Congresses we can hope for a common sensical fix to this disaster.  How about religious liberty?  Will this be promoted or will polices be pursued that continue to erode this fundamental freedom?  Only time will tell.  And that all important Supreme Court – the reason so many people voted for Trump over Hillary in the first place – is an answer we will fortunately see sooner than later as the seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia still awaits to be filled.  We can pray for a Clarence Thomas or Samuel Alito instead of an Anthony Kennedy.  Again, we will have to see what happens.

So far there has been no Twitter eruption or ferocious rhetoric causing damage.  That is a very hopeful sign to me.  Maybe having won Trump will have lost his desire to engage in the politics of complete personal annihilation.  I’m assuming that we will see things more clearly as President Trump is facing opposition on his policies and confirmations.  Can a vindictive narcissistic 70-year old change his spots and act responsibly and with the dignity required of the office of president for very long?  Truly this will be something to watch and pray for.

So the bottom line is this: I am willing to pray for and give President Trump my support – insomuch as he earns it.  And earn it he will have to. I will “trust but verify”.  I will hold him to the exact same standards that I have held all politicians to – Republican or Democrat – and will watch to see if he lives up to the nation’s trust.  But while I am cautiously giving President Trump my support I will also be involved in the “new conservative movement” that is the offshoot of Evan McMullin’s campaign.  I believe that this moral and inclusive conservative mechanism can help prevent President Trump’s more progressive and liberal ideas from seeing too much daylight.  It can also, should the Party choose to embrace those progressive and liberal ideas, provide a vehicle for conservatism in the future.  For me, it is the best I can do.

 

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The Third (and thankfully final) Presidential Debate

I don’t think I’m overstating the case to say that last night’s third presidential debate showed the absolute unfitness of both major candidates to become president.

Hillary’s view of the role of the Supreme Court is frightening.  No, the Court was never intended to be another legislative arm.  It wasn’t meant to side with anyone, but only to interpret without bias or prejudice the Constitution of the United State.  That means that sometimes the Court will make decisions that don’t settle with me emotionally, even though I can see the legal and accurate reasoning.  It was made clear that Hillary views the Court as yet another tool to enact and enforce her liberal agenda.

In addition, who could not be sickened by Hillary’s pro-abortion stance?  Her acceptance of abortion at all stages, including late-term, should be horrifying to one and all.  Unfortunately, I know it isn’t, but her willingness to go against the tide of public opinion on the subject of late-term abortions shows just how radical she is on the subject.

Of course there was the typical Hillary bob and weave regarding the substance of the WikiLeak emails.  Any other Republican candidate would have been able to go after her on this issue, which surely is one of her greatest vulnerabilities, and destroyed her chances for victory.  Unfortunately we don’t have any other Republican candidate, but have the one man with more baggage than any major airline on the busiest travel day of the year.

Donald Trump managed to begin the debate seeming fairly normal, but that never lasts for him.  As normal he all too soon devolved into typical Trump, a man clearly without an iota of appropriate temperament to hold the highest office in the land (and have his finger anywhere near the red button!).

Like Hillary, Trump engaged in lies and spin that were mind-boggling.  His claim that nobody appreciates women more than he does was ridiculous on its face.  His claim of being ardently prolife is specious at best, for he is on record repeatedly embracing the absolute most extreme positions on abortion.

Another problem with Trump was his total vacuity on foreign policy.  One has to wonder if he has truly looked beyond the fact that Putin has said nice things about him when looking at situations abroad.  The thought of having such an ill-informed man at the helm is frightening.  My husband and I used to laugh and say that Bill Clinton (and later Obama) gained all their foreign policy credentials by eating at the International House of Pancakes.  Clearly Trump is even worse than that.

Trump’s sophomoric response to whether or not he’d accept the results of the election was merely a bit of posturing for a man who seems to bask in his pompous and thuggish image.  Do I think some of his followers will attempt to thwart the outcome using Trump’s words as their excuse? Sure.  Do I think Trump was truly trying to incite violence when he loses? No.  Let’s face it, that would do his brand no good and Trump TV would be stuck with only the most radical of his supporters as viewers!

Bottom line on the debate: Hillary was frightening and horrific, Trump was frightening and atrocious, and only Chris Wallace came away looking good.

Why I’m Voting for Evan McMullin for President

Back in 1636 my ancestor William Worcester served as a Church of England Vicar in the Olney Parish (the same position later held by John Newton).  He had held this post for a dozen years, was married, and had four children.  His living, as far as can be ascertained, was sufficient enough to provide for his family with some level of comfort.  In other words, for William Worcester in 1636, there was no upside to arguing with the King – the legal head of the Church.

But back in 1636, William Worcester was growing increasingly unhappy with the Church’s seeming embrace of all things secular.  In that year he found himself in a difficult situation.  The King ordered that at the end of services the vicars were to read from “The King’s Book of Sports and Entertainments” a section that gave explicit permission for engaging in sports and recreations on the Sabbath Day.  Obviously up until that point that had not been the case.  Worcester viewed this as a betrayal of the Gospel as he understood it.  If I could read his mind, I’d guess he felt that his degree from Cambridge and subsequent ordination gave him more insight into the Lord’s views about the Sabbath Day than the King had.  Anyway, I digress.  William chose not to read the passage to his congregation.  In my mind I hear the arguments people must have given him both pro and con about defying the King in this way, but I also can see him deciding that taking a stand for what he felt was an inviolate principle mattered more than any other consideration.  As a consequence, Worcester was summarily stripped of his post and struggled to provide for his family for the next three years.  In 1639 he emigrated to Massachusetts and became a founding citizen of Salisbury.

Okay, but how does this apply today?

During the Republican primaries I was a stanch #nevertrump voter.  I had my favorite(s) in the race, but I was also willing to ultimately support any of the candidates with the single exception of Donald Trump.  Why? Why, even I, someone who is as out of it on pop culture as they come, knew of Trump’s reputation for womanizing, adultery, general incivility, fraudulent business practices, etc.  As I listened to him in the campaign I learned even more to dismay me, for as he campaigned his platform was one of anger and hate and divisiveness.  Those are traits that are truly anathema to me.  For example, I believe in the need to control our borders, but I don’t believe in tearing down all the people who have crossed those borders illegally over the years.  As my husband used to point out, any parent who truly loved their family would probably do all in their power to escape the troubles south of the border and flee to where they could build a better life.  Yes, we need enforcement, but no, we don’t need to name call and foment hatred.

That was just one issue; there were many.  And always there was the idea that I could not betray everything I believed in to vote for a family-destroying immoral man.  People tried to convince me otherwise.  Good and dear friends told me that ultimately I’d change my mind as the election drew near.  I was so torn, for I despised everything the Clintons stood for and didn’t want to be instrumental in Hillary’s victory, but I felt deep down that I just couldn’t vote for Trump.

I moved in June and July was the first anniversary of Ben’s death, so I was rather too preoccupied to follow politics.  However, by the beginning of August I knew I had to figure out what to do about the presidential race.  On August 7th I fasted and I prayed specifically for guidance on how to proceed in the presidential race.  I felt I was willing to lay aside all my own prejudices and do whatever the Lord told me to do, even though I truly doubted He would prompt me to vote for someone who went against every value I held dear.  I received no spiritual insight on August 7th.

On August 8th I woke up and checked my various news feeds, as normal.  One of the very first things that popped up was about someone named Evan McMullin entering the presidential race.  I cannot express what I felt at that moment, for it truly defied explanation.  There had been other third party candidates that never excited any interest for me, even though I carefully looked at them and their views.  But in this case I raced to the computer and went to the fledgling evanmucmullin.com website and read about him.  For the first time in the presidential race I felt energized and I signed up immediately fro be on their email list.  I texted and emailed friends that very day, encouraging them to look McMullin up.

The next day I got an email about a kick-off rally in downtown Salt Lake to be held on Wednesday night.  I RSVP’d and decided to shrug off my innate social anxiety and attend.  It was amazing.  I was interviewed on KSL-TV and was honestly able to say I was on the McMullin team.

Since that night I have learned much more about Evan McMullin.  I so appreciate his honesty and candor on subjects that are important to me.  One of these is the subject of greater inclusion and understanding.  I think principled compassion and conservatism includes looking at things from all angles and viewpoints.  I appreciate his views on foreign policy.  I side with him on the issue of state’s rights.  I definitely agree with him far more on the issues than I do with any of the other candidates.

Most importantly to me, however, is the fact that in voting for Evan McMullin I will not need to compromise my core values.  I will be able to hold my head high knowing that I didn’t choose the lesser of two evils, but rather cast my vote for an upstanding and honorable candidate.  I believe that post-election there will be a permanent division within the Republican Party and I want to be part of the new conservative movement leading us forward into a brighter time.  This is why I am voting for Evan McMullin.  This is why I encourage, no matter the ultimate outcome of the election, all to stand on their principles and vote for integrity and honor.  William Worcester was exiled from his Church and from his country for standing on his principles, but his legacy is far greater for having done so.  This is our time to decide who we are and what we stand for and we can’t let ourselves be governed by fear of the consequences.  What we do now will surely impact us and our families for many years to come.  It is time to do something!

Conservatism: The Antidote for the Hearts of Many Waxing Cold

 

Back in 2010 we went on a family vacation through much of the South.  Included in the trip was a stop in Nashville, complete with a visit to the Grand Ole Opry.  Only, the Opry wasn’t held at the Opry stage, but at the Ryman Auditorium instead, due to damage at the Opry caused by the monstrous flooding just a month earlier.  That flooding had caused millions of dollars of damage and despite 30 counties designated as major disaster areas, the federal government was slow to respond and provided but minimal aid.  The bulk of help came from the communities – including those hardest hit.  While watching the Opry we learned that Brad Paisley had gone door-to-door working with his hands and tools to help his neighbors clean up.  Similar stories abounded about country music stars and average Joes alike.  Concerts were held to raise money for relief efforts, raising over 7 million dollars.  But it was the idea of neighbors helping each other that stood out the most to me.  These were people who didn’t look to Washington to solve all their problems, but instead looked to each other.

My daughter is currently serving a church mission in Jacksonville, Florida.  She was there when Hurricane Matthew swept by.  She spent Saturday and Sunday after the storm with hundreds of other volunteers helping with cleanup.  She mentioned how happily surprised people were when they’d come outside and find these young adult volunteers in their yards cleaning up debris and taking care of fallen trees.

I have come to believe that when Washington is seen as the solution to all ills that the hearts of many wax cold towards one another.  The more people in a community are striving for emotional and temporal self-reliance the more they tend to reach out and lift others.  When we’re all in this together instead of all vying for government solutions the more we care for those around us.  I believe that government reliance helps us focus on problems instead of solutions; victimhood instead of empowerment.

I lived in Southern California when my husband died.  My friends were great and supportive,  but the neighbors in the neighborhood where we lived for over a decade never reached out.  Not a single knock on the door, no offers of help with things around the house, nothing. And it was fine, for I believe in taking care of myself, but there was a distinct coldness that couldn’t be disguised.  I then moved to Utah 11 months later.  In this middle class neighborhood there are people with cancer, people dealing with emotional health issues, several people with serious medical concerns.  And yet I have been watched out for and shown tremendous care.  When I had surgery, a neighbor with cancer brought me a loaf of zucchini bread and asked how she could help.  The number of visitors bringing soup, bread, etc., was off the charts.  My trash cans were taken out and put away.  You get the idea.  What was the difference? I actually believe that in SoCal, where people figure government will handle everything, people don’t feel a need to try to help.  In my current neighborhood, however, the people view government as the avenue of last resort, and hence they look at the struggles of life as something we go through together.  Where Hillary Clinton’s “it takes a village to raise a child” was a call for greater governmental spending and regulation, for a real conservative the village is family, the neighborhood, and the church or other similar communities.

I worry for places where the government is too involved.  I would like to see more autonomy turned back over to states and local communities, for that would bring neighborhoods closer together and solve many of the problems currently facing our country.  We’d watch out for each other’s children and care for the widows and the needy. There’d be less need for government intervention if families and neighborhoods watched out for one another.

I believe that that whenever we look at each other as people, as individuals struggling with the same ups and downs of life that we endure, that our hearts are softened and great things occur.  Wouldn’t it be great to see a return to the civility that Americans have long been know for?  Conservatism – true conservatism – is about this.  It trusts individuals and communities to take care of themselves and that trust engenders greater compassion and love.  It is what we need – now more than ever.

Planned Parenthood’s 100th Birthday

100 years ago this month Margaret Sanger, a eugenicist of the worst stripe, opened the doors of Planned Parenthood.  Initially the publicly declared goal was to provide birth control so women could plan their pregnancies and thus safeguard their health. Not so public was her goal of stemming the tide of births amongst undesirables.  Truly a monstrous attitude and belief.

Fast forward a hundred years.  Roe v. Wade has happened.  Planned Parenthood performs one out of every three abortions in the United States.  They promote the right to kill a child at every point of pregnancy.  They have gotten rich in their cause of death.

But it isn’t just their own right to abort that they fight for.  It is clear that the desire to rid the world of all unwanted babies is paramount.  Last week the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a California law that required all pregnancy centers – including religious and pro-life centers – to give information on how to obtain abortions.  Being a doctor or counselor in these days has come to mean leaving all beliefs at the door.  What a tragedy of immense proportions.

And let’s face it: abortion in many cases has become a method of birth control, and Planned Parenthood encourages its use as such.  I had a friend, mid-30s, who told me if she got pregnant again she would abort.  I asked her why and her answer was very telling.  She explained that she didn’t want any more children, but that she wanted to be free to live her life and have fun.  I suggested she could always give this theoretical baby up for adoption.  I can still hear her voice as she said, “I would never lose my waist for somebody else’s brat”.  I have never forgotten that conversation.  She was a huge advocate for Planned Parenthood.

Killing babies in utero is a terrible enough tragedy, but the slippery slope in the culture of death is even more frightening.  I talked to a friend’s mother once on the subject.  I asked her what made delivery of the baby so sacrosanct.  After all, I said, if the baby had been killed just moments before birth that was okay, so why wasn’t it okay after birth.  Her response chilled me.  She said that she thought there should be a window of time that served as a trial period, if you will.  Maybe two or three years would be enough to make sure the child had no disabilities or would be able to live free of poverty or its attendant ills.  I have since heard that sentiment a few other times and it never ceases to stop me in my tracks.

Now it seems as though life, with all of its struggles and challenges, is something that we feel we can control in an ultimate way.  Wesley J. Smith, over at National Review online, has done an amazing job documenting the international and national scourge of euthanasia and its very dangerously slippery slope.  It is a frightening future for those who are pro-life.  I highly recommend going and checking out his posts.

Alexander Pope once said in his Essay on Man, “Vice is a monster so frightful a mien / as to be hated needs but to be seen. / Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, / we first endure, then pity then embrace.”  And Rudyard Kipling in his famous poem, Gods of the Copybook Heading, spoke of a time “When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins”.  It seems as though we are there.  We have embraced evil.  We don’t believe in consequences for actions.  What a true tragedy.

So, no, I cannot wish Planned Parenthood a happy 100th birthday.  Through their century they have wrought tremendous horror and led this country down a primrose path that removed God from the equation of giving and taking life.  For that I cannot celebrate.  For that I can only mourn.